The stipulated federal court order requires Vizio to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect.
According to the agencies’ complaint, starting in February 2014, Vizio Inc. and an affiliated company have manufactured Vizio smart TVs that capture second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV, including video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.
In addition, Vizio facilitated appending specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, the agencies allege. Vizio sold this information to third parties, who used it for various purposes, including targeting advertising to consumers across devices, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Vizio touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” but failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data. The complaint alleges that Vizio’s data tracking—which occurred without viewers’ informed consent—was unfair and deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.
The $2.2 million payment by Vizio includes a payment of $1.5 million to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 of that amount suspended.
This is not the first time that there is concern about data collection by smart TVs. In March 2016 the European Audiovisual Observatory has published an IRIS Special legal report called Is my smart TV working for Big Brother? Consumer organisations in Belgium and the Netherlands have also expressed their concerns,